What was the inspiration behind your RCA Show work?
My final show was made up of a series of huge stripes and geometric designs printed onto textiles, twisted and bent into shapes to create dynamic, striking, repeating motifs. I also showed a short animation showing a swirling vision communicating my central narrative of surrealism and Baroque or ‘super-reality’. This idea of forming a world is now at the heart of my studio practice and is crucial to the future vision of my company. The idea of large-scale, opulent imagery and combining surrealist notions and a baroque sensibility were and still are part of the story of my work, but it has evolved into a luxury-end studio – the work involves many sub-themes and influences but always points towards my central ‘mood’. I draw everything by hand, as it gives me full control as to the message I wish to communicate through the graphic mark and image. My designs sought to unravel a new kind of dialogue between colour and imagery through subtle subversions and a bringing together of a diverse subject matter – in turn creating designs which were steeped in historical context and very much pointed towards a feeling of the future.
What are your memories of being a student?
The two years spent at the RCA were intensely creative. I worked hard to shape a new lens, representing how I saw the world through my design work. I was really challenged by the academic staff and had some great mentors throughout my time there. My universe changed and rapidly expanded through self-questioning and taking that leap into the unknown. The College helped to give me a view of the design landscape, in turn informing the emphasis of my work and therefore the potential market value. The social culture of the RCA is fundamentally important. There is a huge collective wisdom, and it was really down to me to tap into that and draw the best of our what and who was on hand to help me on my way. Overall, the RCA gave me an unshakeable drive and taught me to think big.
What do you do now?
As soon as I graduated with my MA in Textile design I formed my luxury interior wallpaper, textile and surface design label, based here in London Bridge. I work mainly with interior designers and retailers on bespoke projects as well as with my core range – launched annually. We have recently been published in the Financial Times and Elle Decor Italia, and our client portfolios have really expanded over the past year making this a really busy time for us. We have also just introduced a range of products alongside the papers and textiles. I am very much involved in the bespoke side of my studio, working on projects mainly for the luxury-end hospitality sector and brand licenses –some excellent ones of which are launched later this year!
In May I launched a new collection at Clerkenwell Design Week – it was a really exciting event – and we are planning to exhibit in China next year to find more business overseas, as I see this as being a great area of development and growth for the studio. I have worked with the design store Mint for the past few seasons and am really excited about the London Design Festival in September, where I will be taking over the majority of a showroom on Great Portland Street showing the new collection on walls and furniture. I am really lucky to have found and grown a fantastic support network of people around me who can really help me achieve my vision. I'm very privileged to be working with Price Waterhouse Coopers on developing the core business, through FuelRCA. I am also a visiting lecturer in design at Coventry University.
What’s been your favourite project so far?
I see my studio’s output as the execution of one idea or ‘project’, whether that is working on murals for public spaces or the execution of a handle, say, on our new range of ceramics. I am really excited to be working on some design hotels in the coming year, but at the moment I am focusing mainly on the licensing and wholesale arm of my company – it's interesting to see the brand be re-interpreted through the different markets and reaching an entirely different customer. I love working on the bespoke projects – it is really important to be challenged in a project and bring print design into a new context by asking fundamental questions. I never restrict myself by the definition of my specialism but more seek to expand on its parameters.
What inspires you?
At the moment I am really inspired by the high church and the surreal aspects of giant spaces like cathedrals and mosques – I love the idea of an ornately bejewelled and finely worked egg or precious box which can collapse, fold and unfold revealing ornamental mechanisms through a sort of clockwork system of ornate and opulent geometry. I would take that idea and place something very organic or elemental within it, and imagine the imagery as a short film before going forward to thinking of a collection of designs. I am most inspired when I am thinking through drawing.
What do you aspire to?
I aspire to create a culture of questioning within my company, pushing what we believe textile is and could be. I aspire to contribute to the design conversation and change attitudes in some way.
What would be your ultimate career achievement?
My ultimate achievement would be to fit out an entire design hotel, creating a unified space producing furniture, lighting and the interior architecture – working with marble and metals to re-imagine the flat graphic artwork into an architectural context and creating a completely immersive experience. I would like to work with David Collins studio and Martin Brudnizki Design Studio.
What was the best piece of advice you have received during your time at the RCA?
It was probably from fellow students and colleagues. It is difficult to pinpoint one piece of advice – speaking openly with friends about our challenge, successes and failures was a really important aspect of the RCA experience. Anne Toomey was my personal tutor and she was really committed to bringing the best out of me – we had some hard discussions, but Anne helped enable me to see.
What do you most value about being a graduate of the RCA?
Advice from staff and FuelRCA has been a really important part of my development since I graduated. I was part of a very strong year – everyone has gone onto achieve great things and forge their own paths, so it is fantastic to be a part of that.
"I draw everything by hand as it gives me full control as to the message I wish to communicate through the graphic mark and image... I am most inspired when I am thinking through drawing."Kit Miles
(MA Textiles, 2011)